I thought I’d love paintball

I thought I’d love donning a dingy jumpsuit and running around shooting paintballs at my coworkers from Nocturne, who celebrated the bar’s second birthday yesterday. As a gamer who loves first-person shooters and a rollergirl who is used to taking hard knocks, I assumed a day of paintball would be a real treat.

What I didn’t count on was the fact that among my gaming proclivity and sado-masochistic tendencies, I have other idiosyncrasies that are at odds with paintballing. One, I don’t really like being very dirty. I’m not a good camper for this reason (in addition to my terror of bugs) and I find the time spent between derby practice and a shower to be intensely uncomfortable. I’ve been described as the type of person who likes to get her hands dirty, but this couldn’t be further from the truth in the literal sense! The paint in the paintballs was especially greasy and thin, which meant that the slightest amount on my hands made my whole body feel grimy with it. Plus, the indoor paintball “environment” props (houses and cars to hide behind) were absolutely pasted with that shit, so you couldn’t lean on anything to take cover without sliding around against it. Another thing that surprised me was that the floor of the play area was sand/mud which I imagine serves to emulate actual war-trench conditions (cool?) and made running around in there feel even more gross.

My next complaint is about the gear itself. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, the place was crawling with kids, so small-sized jumpsuits disappeared quickly. As a result, I had to wear a garment so big that was nearly impossible to run in without using my free hand to hold up the crotch of the suit as I ran! The goggles and facemask were difficult to see and breathe through, but I was grateful for it when I took a shot to the left ear that hurt like a mother and left that ear ringing for a while after. We were told that we would know when we were hit, and that once hit we were “out” and had to leave the game area immediately. The problem was it wasn’t so obvious when I was hit because paintballs hitting the sails of my enormous jumpsuit didn’t break, so I would feel something but not really impact. And leaving the game area meant crossing the line of fire with your arms up, defenseless; I took far more shots leaving the environment than I did actually playing in it. The rental guns are crummy and you’re pretty sure that the most fastidiously aimed shot went nowhere near its target because the paintballs from these guns flew in arcs. Of course, the die-hard paintballers came equipped with their own expensive air-rifles with fancy laser sights and semi-automatic whatever-the-fuck, so those of us with rental equipment were essentially target practice.

Third… did I mention the place was crawling with kids? It’s not that I don’t like all children. I have nothing intrinsically against people under a certain age. It’s just that I have a hard time relating to them: I don’t want to patronize them with stupid baby talk but I can never think of anything else to day. I remember being a kid and hearing relatives ask me “How’s school?” and thinking that was the stupidest question in the universe. What, am I going to launch into the latest gossip about who made out with who at last weekend’s house party? My latest crush? My favorite spice girl? Child-adult interactions were awkward for me as a kid and they’re just as awkward now that I’m on the other side of them, so I tend to avoid them in the general sense. As for simply co-existing with children in the universe, I’m ok with that when they’re reasonably well-behaved. My folks were especially strict about my behavior when in public, so I’m particularly intolerant of witnessing brat-attacks and what I consider to be “poor behavior” which has largely become the norm judging by the kids I see out with their parents in Toronto. But I digress, back to paintballing. Children own paintballing, and several of them told me to get out of their way if they were too polite to simply shove me out of it. Of course, they cheated with abandon, doing everything we were told not to do before entering the game environment (“no blind shooting”, “If you get shot, you must leave the environment”, etc)

It was still a neat experience and I find myself with a new appreciation for FPS video games that offer all the thrills and the strategy without the gear and nasty greasy paint. This almost-thirtysomething is clearly too curmudgeonly for such intense action-hobbies and would choose laser tag or go-karts over paintball. I’m glad I went, both for the team-building that the whole idea was intended for and also to remind myself of the internal paradoxes and contradictions of my personality that make me who I am.

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